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Hillsborough County to start fall practices Aug. 24 while schools go all-virtual

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Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson said public school programs will be allowed to begin practices for fall sports on Aug. 24, as well as participate in regular season games while public schools go all-virtual the first four weeks.

Two weeks ago, the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted to postpone the start of practices in fall sports until Aug. 24. 

The decision gave FHSAA executive director George Tomyn and other administrators more time to work with the Sports Medical Advisory Committee and advisory boards to prepare recommendations for the start of fall sports at an in-person board of directors meeting scheduled for Aug. 14 in Gainesville that will not be available to the public via livestream. 

The results of that meeting will ultimately determine what the fall sports calendar will look like. But practices and regular contests will go on as scheduled, at least for now. 

Robinson also said Hillsborough County schools will enter phase three of summer conditioning starting Monday. 

Among the highlights:

  • All athletic facilities including locker rooms and trainer’s office can be used (limited to 15 in the locker room at a time).
  • Equipment can be used (including balls, nets, etc. but not helmets and shoulder pads).
  •  Whole group participation is allowed with workouts (Monday-Friday).
  • The use of water coolers or water cows will be allowed (Student-athletes are encouraged to bring their own water bottles and towels).
  •  Restrooms in the locker rooms can be used.

Hillsborough joins Pinellas and Hernando as the three area counties that have entered phase three of conditioning. Pasco County will likely do so within the next three weeks. 

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Baseball

No more fans at Pasco County sporting events after COVID spike

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Stock football stadium

Pasco County has decided to limit all athletic activities to students and coaches due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

That means no fans or media members in attendance. 

The new rule starts on Monday and will last until the positivity rate, which has climbed to nine percent, drops to below five percent for a rolling seven-day period. 

In the past two weeks, two county football teams — Wiregrass Ranch and Fivay — had to forfeit playoff games because of a player testing positive for coronavirus and multiple team members and coaches having to quarantine due to contact tracing. 

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Coronavirus

COVID case ends Osceola’s volleyball season

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Osceola, which made the Class 5A region finals in volleyball last season, had to forfeit Monday’s district quarterfinal match because its entire junior varsity and varsity teams are quarantining after a player tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 25, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said.  

By forfeiting, the Warriors ended their season. They were ranked fifth in the state in Class 5A and were expected to go on another deep playoff run.

“We have to follow what the health officials tell us,” Bennett said. “It’s tough because Osceola is one of our best volleyball teams in the county. I talked to the Florida High School Athletic Association and they said there were plenty of other teams around the state in the same situation.”

Under CDC and Pinellas County health department guidelines, any student athlete who tests positive must be quarantined, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15-minute duration without any face covering. Osceola’s quarantine ends on Oct. 19, a week after the district tournament.. 

All the players have currently tested negative, including the one who was originally positive. But the quarantine did not end. The Warriors also had to postpone their appearance in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. That title game against St. Petersburg will be made up once the Green Devils’ season ends. 

“It’s heartbreaking for the seniors to have their season end this way, but we’re really excited for the chance to play the PCAC Final at home for senior night as our last match of the season, against our toughest competition, St Petersburg,” Osceola coach Ashley Martin said.”It will feel like a state championship since a trophy is involved.”    

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Coronavirus

PHU cancels season opener after a football player tests positive for coronavirus

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Palm Harbor University’s season opener against rival East Lake this Friday has been cancelled after a Hurricanes player tested positive for coronavirus, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett confirmed in a text message.

It was unclear how many PHU players are currently under quarantine. According to CDC and county health department guidelines, a player who tests positive must quarantine, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15 minute duration with a face covering.

The Hurricanes next game is scheduled for Sept. 17 at Wharton. Bennett said the school is looking into moving that game to Saturday or Monday to avoid another cancellation.

The Eagles will now host Sarasota Riverview in Friday’s opener.

This is the fourth area football program that had to cancel its season opener after having a player test positive for the virus.

Hillsborough and Jefferson, which were supposed to play on Friday, both have players under quarantine. Their opponents, Chamberlain and Gaither, are now kicking off the regular season against each other.

Zephyrhills is in a similar situation and had to cancel its first two games.

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